Living on purpose is the only way to really live. Everything else is just existing. – Rick Warren
Living on purpose is living a God-centered life. Rick sums it up in five purposes: to love God, to be part of God’s family, to become like God, to serve God, and to tell others about God.
He often cites biblical characters, particularly Jesus, to illustrate examples of a purpose-driven life. Although the book is mainly Christian in religious context, the lessons are applicable to us regardless of religion.
Let’s take a look at what we can learn from this bestseller:
Trusting God completely means having faith that he knows what is best for your life. You expect him to keep his promises, help you with problems, and do the impossible when necessary.
Noah trusted God even when it didn’t make sense. When God asked him to build the ark, there were three problems that could have caused him to doubt. First, Noah had never seen rain (in the old times, the Earth was irrigated from the ground up). Second, he lives hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean (how was he supposed to get the ship to the ocean?) Third, he had no idea how to round up all the animals, and then care for them.
Impossible? For us alone, yes. With God, nothing is impossible.
It took many years for Noah to build the ark, with almost no sign of rain. He was judged as a crazy man and might have drawn embarrassment from his very own family. Yet, Noah kept on trusting God. He performed his mission tasks wholeheartedly.
Noah’s Ark symbolizes our mission in life. How we build the ark shows us how we can live a life of purpose.
The vision you have for your life is God’s mission for you. And only you can see it. You too will appear crazy to others and you will have your doubts. You will face many discouragements and many other reasons for you to quit. But don’t, because you only need one reason why it will work: God.
Live with purpose. Fulfill your mission. Build your ark!
Surrender: The Heart of Worship
Victory comes through surrender. Surrender doesn’t weaken you; it strengthens you. Surrendered to God, you don’t have to fear or surrender to anything else… Surrender is not the best way to live; it is the only way to live. Nothing else works. All other approaches lead to frustration, disappointment, and self-destruction.
What you surrender is your ego, the part that edges God out, as Wayne Dyer put it. You let go of this part of you who wants to control everything in life, and you let God take over. We give up ourselves not out of fear or duty, but in love.
Rick says that the greatest hindrance to God’s blessing in your life is yourself – your self-will, stubborn pride, and personal ambition – in short, your ego. You cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life if you are focusing on your own plans.
It requires complete trust if we are to have a relationship with God. You trust that everything that happens is God at work. Instead of trying harder, you trust more.
But Rick also warns us: when we decide to live a totally surrendered life, that decision will be tested. It will mean doing inconvenient, unpopular or seemingly impossible tasks.
Surrender is the greatest battle within you. When you let God win, you win. That is your greatest victory.
The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.
How much time do we invest in love? It’s not what we do or provide for others, or even ourselves, that is the essence and expression of love, but it is how much time we invest in them. Love is giving of ourselves. And because time is something we cannot get back, giving of ourselves means giving our time to someone or something we love.
The most desired gift of love, as Rick wrote, is focused attention (aka Consciousness of Being, refer to lessons from A New Earth).
When you focus your attention, you give all of your awareness to the present moment. Your thoughts about the past and the future fade into the background. Time, which is merely a concept in mind, disappears. All that remains is the timeless now.
Don’t we often say “time passes by” or “time stops” when we are with someone we love or we’re doing something we love? Because we give up time in order to love. We exchange time for love.
God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do. We are human beings, not human doings. God is much more concerned about your character than your career, because you will take your character into eternity, but not your career.
What you are, that’s your Being. What you do, your doing. Who you are determines what you do. God wants you to become a godly person, be Christlike. Because whatever you do will only follow who you are as a person.
If you are a loving person, you will do acts of love. If you are a kind person, you will do acts of kindness.
The world, which is currently ego-driven, has it backward. What you do determines who you are. Worse, how much you have defines your value as a person. Your worth is measured by what you do and how much you have. This ‘standard’ led us to a society where hard work is revered as the basis of success and how much you gain from working hard is the basis of how successful you are. We became human doings, and we forgot our Beingness.
This also instilled in us the belief that even love is something we should earn. Love became conditional. You do this for me, so I will love you. If you don’t, you go to hell. Ha!
Rick says effort has nothing to do with your salvation, but it has much to do with your spiritual growth. When we forget that character is one of God’s purposes in our lives, we will become frustrated with our circumstances.
Let’s focus on becoming Christlike, so in whatever we do or whatever career we have, we will do it in-spirit of Christ and we will bear the fruit of the Spirit. It becomes inspired (“in-spirit”) action, rather than fruitless hard work.
God’s Part and Your Part
It is at this point of commitment that most people miss God’s purpose for their lives… Christlikeness is the result of making Christlike choices and depending on His spirit to help you fulfill those choices.
Rick argues that many are afraid to commit to anything and just drift through life, which leads to frustration and mediocrity. Others commit to worldly goals and end up disappointed and bitter.
Here’s the big word: RESPONSIBILITY
Response-ability is consciously responding to life by making Christlike choices. “Christ” is synonymous to love. Therefore, Christlikeness is the result of making choices based on love. When you do that, you choose on behalf of your soul.
The part of you that steers away from responsibility is your ego, your “comfort-friendzone.” It reacts out of fear. It relies on reactivity (react-activity). All its activities are based on fear.
Rick says there are two parts of spiritual growth: “work-out” and “work-in.”
Work-out is God’s part. Work-in is your part, your responsibility. Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between you and God.
I love Rick’s analogy: During a physical work-out, you exercise to develop your body, not to get a body. When you work-out a puzzle, you already have all the pieces – your task is to put them together. Farmers work the land, not to get the land, but to develop what you already have.
Let’s put it in spiritual context: your spiritual body is your soul. Your task is spiritual growth. To put together means to make yourself whole. You already have everything to do that – because God is with you – and God is everything!
Practice, Practice, Practice
Habits take time to develop. Remember that your character is the sum total of your habits… There is only one way to develop the habits of Christlike character: You must practice them – and that takes time! There are no instant habits.
We cannot read a book about courage and expect ourselves to be courageous just by reading it. Of course, we become courageous by facing our fears and willingly living a purpose-led life.
Repetition is the mother of character and skill. We need to practice, practice, practice over time. There is no other way.
Don’t get in a hurry, as Rick points out. Character building is a slow process. Spiritual growth is one step at a time. It’s much like building your physical body; only that with God, you are growing your spiritual muscle.
Be patient and don’t get discouraged. Believe God is working in your life even when you don’t feel like it.
Growth is usually painful, but pain is also a sign that you are growing. The fulfillment and happiness that will come from it far outweigh everything else. And that’s what God will is for you – your growth, so you can become like Him: Be ye awesome!
Whenever God gives us an assignment, he always equips us with what we need to accomplish it. This custom combination of capabilities is called your SHAPE.
- Spiritual Gifts – these are special God-empowered abilities for serving him.
I looked them up on the net and Woah! (I’m not a bible scholar that’s why I myself am amazed to find out about these gifts and neither was I aware we have them!) Here is the list: Administration, Knowledge, Apostleship, Leadership, Discernment, Mercy, Evangelism, Miracles, Exhortation, Pastor/Shepherd, Faith, Prophecy, Giving, Serving/Ministering, Healing, Teaching, Interpretation of Tongues, Wisdom (see details here).
We don’t have them all, so which are the ones that resonate more with you? I suggest developing these spiritual gifts by sharing them. Freely we have received, freely we must give.
- Heart – your heart represents the source of all your motivations – what you love to do and what you care about the most. Your heart reveals the real you – what you truly are, not what others think you are or what circumstances force you to be.
What are you most passionate about? What are the things you love to do? What are your interests? They all came from God and He wants you to use them not only for your good but for the greater good of all and for His glory.
How do we know we are serving God from the heart? Rick says the two telltale signs are enthusiasm (you do it for the sheer enjoyment, not for rewards or applause or payment; no one has to motivate or challenge you or check up on you) and effectiveness (you’re simply awesome doing it; you get good at it because passion drives perfection).
- Abilities – these are your God-given talents. You should examine what you are good at doing and what you’re not good at. Rick puts it this way: What I’m able to do, God wants me to do.
Abraham Maslow has another way of putting it: “What one can be, one must be.”
Either of those statements can pretty much sum up our mission and how we can live purposefully. Part of our journey is discovering that within us. Once we figured out what those abilities are, we must strive to match them with our capabilities. We acquire and practice the necessary skills to do so.
What are the abilities and talents that you are naturally good at? Is it writing, entrepreneurship, drawing, arts, baking, speaking, creating music, sports, or making people laugh? Whatever you find you’re good at doing, do it.
- Personality – there is no one like you. You are uniquely you. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ personality because God designed it for a purpose. The world would be extremely boring if we had the same personality.
Do you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert or ambivert (both)? Do you work best alone or with a team? Are you a thinker or a feeler?
Your personality will affect how and where you use your spiritual gifts and abilities. Two people can have the same gifts, but because one is introvert and the other is extrovert, their gifts will be expressed differently too.
We need balance. Each and every one is an essential piece to the puzzle. It is the key to world harmony.
- Experiences – these are your life experiences God used for molding you. Rick suggests looking at six kinds of experiences: family experiences, educational experiences, vocational experiences, spiritual experiences, ministry experiences and painful experiences.
Among them, God will use your painful experiences the most. And your greatest ministry will most likely come out of your greatest hurt (I say Amen to that!).
In order for God to use your painful experiences, you must be willing to share them.
Author and motivation speaker Lisa Nichols is a strong proponent of storytelling. She said that the measure of success depends on how much willing you are to share your story.
It’s quite ironic but people will be more encouraged and empowered by sharing your weaknesses and how you felt God’s presence when you were at your weakest.
Be vulnerable. By learning vulnerability, you will get to know the invulnerable part of you – that is your soul.
Servants think about their work, not what others are doing. They don’t compare, criticize, or compete with other servants or ministries. They’re too busy doing the work God has given them.
Rick says there are two reasons why we should never compare with anyone else. First, you will always find someone to be doing a better job than you and you will become discouraged. Or you will always find someone who doesn’t seem as effective as you and you will get full of pride. Either of the two will take you out of service and rob you of your joy.
We are on the same team – let’s call it Team Awesomeness – and we are all working for God. We are working toward the same goal, to becoming better versions of ourselves – the version God has intended for all of us.
Comparison, competition, and criticism (judgment) are all doings of the ego, the lower-self version in us. To compare, to compete and to criticize is to work for the goal of the ego: separation. That’s the ultimate cause of all human suffering.
So let’s focus on serving, become so busy with it that we don’t have any time for these distractions, which keep us from achieving our common goal.
Made for a Mission
You were made for a mission. God is at work in the world, and he wants you to join Him. This assignment is called your mission. God wants you to have both a ministry in the Body of Christ and a mission in the world. Your ministry is your service to believers, and your mission is your service to unbelievers.
The English word mission comes from the Latin word for “sending.” Our mission is to be a representative of Christ, introducing people to God. This is what Rick calls our ‘shared’ mission, while your Life Message is the ‘specific’ mission for you.
The shared mission is to continue what Jesus has started during His incarnation on Earth. Because unbelievers find it hard to believe in the existence of a God they cannot see, Jesus, the incarnated Son of God, became a man to both represent God and establish a spiritual brotherhood among men (the true essence of “Kingdom of Heaven”). By becoming a living example, people “see” the presence of God through Jesus.
And since Jesus lived a short life on Earth, He invites us to represent Him to the unbelievers. No one can physically see God, but by living in a Christlike manner, loving God and loving everyone unconditionally, people will see the image and likeness of God in you.
Your Life Message
God has given you a Life Message to share. Your Life Message has four parts to it.
- Your testimony: the story of how you began a relationship with Jesus
- Your life lessons: the most important lessons God has taught you
- Your godly passions: the issues God shaped you to care about most
- The Good News: the message of salvation
Testimony – this is the story of how Christ has made a difference in your life. It is the essence of witnessing, sharing your personal experiences with the Lord. This story is unique and only you can share it, so it is an essential part of your mission on earth. Your story builds a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to theirs.
Life Lessons – these are the truths that God has taught you from your experiences with Him. These are the lessons and insights you have learned about God and other aspects of life. You ask yourself questions on what God has taught you from your experiences and lessons you learned from the people in your life.
Godly Passions – the issues God shaped you to care about the most. You become His spokesman to address a problem, a purpose or a principle you are most passionate about. You will feel compelled to speak about it and do what you can to make a difference. They usually come from the most difficult problem you have personally experienced and so you want to help people who are in a situation you once were in.
In my case, my godly passions concern about health and healing because for a long time I had been chronically sick, and had lost my father to cancer. So it became my lifelong mission to do whatever I can to help people who are going through the same challenges.
Whatever problem you have, however daunting it may seem, I encourage you to see and accept it as a blessing in disguise, because it truly is. It will be God’s greatest blessing to you and your greatest gift to the world.
Good News – the message of salvation. It’s about finding the lost sheep and bringing them back home. It’s an invitation for everyone to establish a familial relationship with God, with Him as our parent and every human being as our brothers and sisters in Christ (“Son of God”). It is a message of Love, regardless of religion, believer or not.
I’ve shared the account of my Life Message in my first book, The Path to Awesomeness. It is the culmination of my personal journey and a fulfillment of my life purpose. It is what I am here for and my mission is to help you too, lead The Purpose-Driven Life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
RICK WARREN is a pastor, author, global strategist, theologian, and philanthropist. He is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch in Lake Forest, California, that is the eighth-largest church in the United States. His book The Purpose Driven Life has been called the bestselling non-fiction hardback in publishing history by Publishers Weekly, having sold more than 32 million copies.
Other Books by Rick Warren